Monday, February 16, 2009

Vorg Vessel, The Queen of Fish Mountain (5”) + Illuminated by Stripes (3”), Cut Hands

The prolific Adam Kriney is perhaps best known as a drummer, hammering it out freestyle for a handful of Brooklyn-based psychedelic and improv outfits on the Colour Sounds Recordings label (Dragonfrynd, Owl Xounds, La Otracina), which he himself runs.

With Vorg Vessel (Cut Hands), his first solo outing, this Boston expat sets down his sticks and sinks his claws into a classic Lowrey organ and a keyboard, presumably cheap and battery-powered. A disclaimer in the liner booklet informs us that “The Queen of Fish Mountain” (5”) and “Illuminated by Stripes” (3”) are 100% synthesizer and sequencer free. Whether Kriney is trying to paint himself as a purist or making some kind of sweeping statement about the current state of electronic music is irrelevant: rarely has the sound of two droning instruments grinding against one another been so varied and beautiful.

“The Queen of Fish Mountain” and “Illuminated by Stripes” share an old, almost archival feel, like the sleepy krautrock soundtrack to a German expressionist film played back over a warped VHS tape. Like Kriney’s other projects, Vorg Vessel pulls off fine balancing act the ad-lib and the scripted: Kriney is constantly churning out minimal melodic ideas, but they keep getting bogged down in a swamp of delay and oversaturation. Cyclical circus melodies bend into jarring two-note intervals before opening out into the air, reminding us of the power of simple combinations of notes to return us to the peace of the womb or make our hair bristle.

More than anything else, however, the two Vorg Vessel discs allow us to lose ourselves for a time in the pure, throbbing frequencies of the Lowrey. Organ sounds we’ve all heard a thousand times before magically reconnect with the feelings we attached to them as children: the Gothic menace of a bass tone, the astral visitation of a high tremolo. This offering is elegantly packaged in a slimline DVD case, with art by Peter Friel and two lovingly spray-painted flying saucers—perhaps the perfect metaphor for the music inside.

Limited edition of 50. Organ help by Tracy Hatch.

Words: Emilie Friedlander

Originally published on Foxy Digitalis in December, 2008.

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